Happy Friday Founders & Friends!
This week, Ish Baid, CEO of Bloom Capital portfolio company Virtually spent some time with us and covered a wide range of topics. We chatted about powering the future of education, YC’s first remote cohort, and some of the lessons he has learned along the way as a founder.
Let’s dive in.
Founder Interview :: Ish Baid, Virtually
Virtually is building the “Shopify of Online Schools” by bringing together payments, live classes, and student management in one platform.
Founder journey + experience at Facebook
“I’ve always been pulled towards building stuff. I interned at Facebook and really liked the people. Obviously having Facebook on your resume opens up quite a few doors so it was always tempting to take the offer after college. I was also working on a little startup with a good friend of mine and we were unexpectedly approached by VCs right before we graduated. We ended up taking the money, moved to LA, and learned a ton by making almost every mistake you can imagine as a first-time founder. It was a super valuable experience but we pretty much running out of cash, shut down and I went to Facebook to build my savings back up.
What Facebook was really good for was the great mentors. I learned how to build software at scale plus what a good or terrible manager looked like because I had one of each.
What I learned the most was that I wasn’t where I belonged. I knew I just couldn’t be a Facebook long term. There was a PM there to tell me what my product would do, a content strategist would tell me what it would say, a designer would tell me what it looked like, an engineering manager lead would tell me how it was structured. I was just handed the blueprint to go build. It was just not that exciting or fulfilling. I just knew that I needed to go out and start my own thing.
In terms of skills that translate, the software engineering experience was great but starting a company is a whole different ball game. A lot of people say “I want to be in Big Tech for a little bit to learn critical skills and jump over to being a Founder.” I think very few skills actually translate and if you want to be a founder, you just have to do it to learn as much as you can from being on the job + other founders.”
Was Y Combinator’s first remote cohort worth it?
“The YC Community is one of the best entrepreneur communities to be a part of. From day one, you have an unfair advantage.
I remember stepping into the cohort and introducing myself over Bookface, YC’s internal social network, and I had alumni reach out from all over the world. We would get on hour-long calls where they just dumped all this crazy insightful knowledge and then continued to provide value as I went through the batch making useful introductions. I honestly got my foot in the door with a lot of companies and customers we would not have the opportunity to connect with if it wasn’t for the YC network. The most valuable asset for YC is the network and you do not lose that in the remote batch. You don't lose access to the network. You don't lose access to the deal. You don't lose access to their advice and their mentorship.”
What are some lessons you learned the hard way?
Ruthless prioritization and focus. As a founder, you can go a million different directions and it is important for you to say “no” to a hundred good opportunities so you can go after that one great one.
Learning how to leverage your unfair advantages. Every founder - based on their backgrounds, skillsets, and network - has an unfair advantage. Building a startup is hard and leveraging every one of your cheat codes helps.
How are you making the most of COVID’s tailwinds?
“Virtually was trying to foster the change that was already coming. We always held this thesis that University is no longer the best place to get job training. There was a time, pre-internet, where you could go to college, learn relevant skills, and use those skills to land jobs but post-internet industries are evolving. College professors are great academics and researchers but the best people to actually learn from are people in the industry.
We saw the trend really begin with Lambda School back in 2017 when they proved you could do completely remove job training. When we saw that, we wanted to build the infrastructure layer for the next 10,000 schools, micro-schools, and programs that will pop up for every single vertical, in addition to software engineering. These non-traditional educational institutions can provide students real job training, in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost.”
How is education evolving in a digital native world
“Higher education is losing its monopoly. Before, if you wanted good credentialling, you had to go to college. There are so many options now such as online courses, bootcamps, career accelerators, starting companies, and more. There are going to be cheaper options and the world is so much better off if you can remove the geographic barrier to learning.”
Any words of wisdom for your fellow founders?
“Being successful as a founder is all about learning how to say “No” to a hundred good opportunities so you can say “Yes” to that one great opportunity. It is so tempting to chase any opportunity and attempt to serve any customer that shows even remote interest. Sometimes, they are the wrong customer who you’re not going to make successful. It is important to just say “No” and execute with ruthless focus.”
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